This is just such a simple romance in the best way. There are no Villains, only people with different desires, with the common decency of selflessness. It’s people trying to out-selfless each other in their different ways, from the spiritual to the physical acts. Also, very refreshing with the very Christian setting. Kajol is full of energy, Arvind Swamy is cute and Prabhu Deva is very sexy. It’s a classic for a reason.
Priya Amalraj has grown up in a convent, since her mother is dead her father wanted her to grow with the equivalent of it. Thomas Thangadurai is a just returned NRI who falls in love with Priya immediately, but he is too shy to confess his feelings. He asks the help of Deva, a persuasive hairstylist, to help convince Priya to the idea of matrimony. This is because Priya has aspirations of becoming a nun. However, soon things do not start to go as planned as Deva begins to fall in love with Priya.
Spoilers here on!
This story is very, very loosely based on The Sound of Music (1965), except that it completely isn’t. That comparison ends with the woman’s decision between love and devotion to God, also just very good music. This was Rajiv Menon’s first movie and for a first movie it is very good, not perfect and very enjoyable. Some scenes with anyone other than Kajol, Prabhu Deva and Arwind seem to go on for a bit too long for my liking. It is very charming and cute in that 90s way. Simple, yet with complicated emotions in its core.
Kajol as Priya (dubbed by Revathi) is delightfully natural and not self-conscious in the least. Priya has no desire to be married to a man, since she sees it as shackling her to the kitchen and happily drives any suitor away. Kajol is so wonderfully spirited and sweet at the same time. Being brought up in a convent she doesn’t have the experience to run a business, nor the shyness when talking to boys. In a way, her inexperience in life makes her even stronger in opposing its rules. You get the feeling that she is far more attached to those below her, servants and even strangers, than those of her own class – being the daughter of a businessman and all.
Arvind Swamy as Thomas is the perfect fit for a very shy man in love. He is downright adorable in scenes. He is supposed to be this bug shot in the town, since he has been to Harvard and can speak American English. Yet inside he is still like the shy little boy he was. No wonder he would choose someone like Deva to persuade Priya, since he is much better at talking to people than he is. When his heart breaks as he assumes things have changed, but have not, makes you feel for him and understand Kajol’s feelings of betrayal. He is filled with every good virtue one wishes to have, except bravery.
Prabhu Deva as Deva (dubbed by Vikram) is the equivalent of a Manic Pixie Dream boy. He has charm, he is a little uncouth, but always tries to make people happy. He has very good persuasion powers, being a hairstylist and all, that is why Thomas wants him to convince Priya to not become a nun. Prabhu Deva’s expressions in the songs are wonderful, equal to his dancing and choreography. In the quieter, longing moments, he shines with his acting.
He is a man that is too selfless, even Kajol says so. He is hurting, wanting love, but wants others to be happy and he knows how much it hurts when those he helps only give him a tip of 50 Rupees. That is why Kajol’s attraction to him makes him afraid, but also why he runs away. He isn’t used to being loved, neither is she. Yet they are both made out of the same stock, in a way. They both love to sing and dance, are a little wild and want what is best for others. She is a virtuous girl who wants to help people, while he drinks and takes up this plan to help another. They are both similar, yet to the world would seem poles apart. Kajol and Prabhu Deva have amazing chemistry, their songs and dances together go well with their similar comic timings.
It is also interesting how technically it is not so much as a love triangle, as a love square. Because God is there as well. Priya has to choose between marriage, the romantic, sexual love she has so far experienced and the love for God that has helped her through most of her life. She is devout, but not in the stereotypical “wearing cross because Christian” way. She just believes in the same things as Jesus did, which is helping people. There is even a confrontation before her ceremony of becoming a Nun, trying to have her confess her love to Deva. Thomas, ever being the sweet saviour he is, forces her to confront this along with the Mother Superior.
The music is by A. R. Rahman and is such a blast. My own favourite is ‘Manna Madurai’ for those first notes of “Oooh la la la” that is very catchy. Kajol is so full of energy, Prabhu Deva is full on dance mode and it is all so very 90s bright and happy. The whole soundtrack is wonderful!! Having listened to the Atrangi Re (2021) album, it almost feels like Rahman is drawing from his work from this period (late 90s-early 2000s). Something like ‘Little Little’ would fit in like a glove in this, even the choreography of that song is something that is very much Prabhu Deva at this time. Exchange Prabhu Deva and Dhanush from both of those movies, the effect, their roles are almost the same.
Overall, a very nice watch. There is just such charm and magic in 90s films, especially the romances. They seem almost innocent, simple, but so are human lives. No matter what or whom you believe in, this film will make you smile thanks to its charm!
Thank you for reading!
2 thoughts on “Minsara Kanavu (1997) – A Simple Story of Desire and Devotion”
I know of one other film in which the heroine is struggling to decide between a vocation as a wife or as a nun: “Anokha Rishta” (1986). It’s in Hindi but I think it may be a south remake.
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